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Energy

Chief Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources on Thursday said the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) will unlock several midstream gas opportunities and enhance domestic gas utilization in the country.

Sylva spoke at the ongoing 12th Nigerian Gas Association (NGA) International Conference 2021 in Lagos.

The minister said Federal Government was ready to collaborate with all stakeholders to initiate national activities that would make Nigeria actualise its declaration of 2021-2030 as the “Decade of Gas Development’’.

The theme of the conference is: “Powering Forward: Enabling Nigeria’s Industrialisation via Gas.”

Sylva who was represented by Mr Justice Derefaka, his Technical Adviser, Gas Business and Policy Implementation, said that Nigeria’s over 200TCF proven reserves of natural gas must be utilised for economic growth and development.

He said: “Our efforts will continue to focus on gas to transmute Nigeria from the conventional dependence on white products to a cleaner, more available, accessible, acceptable and affordable energy use in gas.

“This will not only cushion the effects of current deregulation, but also create enormous jobs opportunities for Nigerians.

“For this reason, we are proposing grand fathering in the new PIB.

“The proposed PIB now before the National Assembly, when passed will also unlock several midstream gas opportunities to further enhance domestic gas utilisation

“The revised PIB framework is based on core principles of clarity, dynamism, neutrality, open access and fiscal rules of general application.”

According to him, the priority of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is development of Nigeria’s vast gas resources and strengthening of the gas value chain as encapsulated in the National Gas Policy of 2017.

Sylva said the president had outlined some strategic priorities for the ministry aimed at stimulating the sector.

He said this was to foster the sustainability of the Nigerian economy, enhance energy availability, create well paid jobs, and take millions of Nigerians out of poverty.

“As a government, we are pursuing programmes to grow our gas economies through the development of industrial and transport gas markets, in juxtaposition with gas-to-power initiatives,” he added.

The minister listed some of the government’s achievements to include construction of the 614 kilometres Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) pipelines, inauguration of National Gas Expansion Programme and commencement of the Nigeria Gas Flare Commercialisation Programme.

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Health, LIFE STYLE

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has assured Nigerians that it will continue to provide vital information relating to the AstraZeneca vaccine recently approved for the treatment of COVID-19.

The Director General of the agency, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, made this known in a statement on Thursday in Abuja.

The NAFDAC recently approved the vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India, to tackle the coronavirus disease ravaging many parts of the world.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, had said that the vaccine would be made available to Nigeria before the end of February.

 

Adeyeye was reacting to questions making rounds on whether the vaccine, when made available, could be given to pregnant and lactating women, the aged and those below 18 years.

Nigerians also wanted to know if people with health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, among others, could take the vaccine.

While approving the vaccine on Feb. 18, Adeyeye said the vaccine had been scrutinised for holistic approach for effective immunisation by the NAFDAC Vaccine Committee.

The director general, however, added that the vaccine was only approved for “Emergency Use Authorisation”, meaning that the product was still under development.

She said that information on whether breastfeeding or pregnant women could also take the vaccine had not yet been confirmed.

She explained that “we base our judgement on the findings of the NAFDAC Vaccine Committee; the vaccine specified 18 years and above.

“People with underlying health conditions can also take it but must be under watch.

“Even the Indian Government that first got the vaccine says the product can be given to people with past history of COVID-19.”

The NAFDAC boss said the agency would continue to get more data about the vaccine, review it and notify the public.

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Government

Nigeria’s Federal executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday approved N5.9 billion for execution of three projects by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Minister of the FCT, Malam Mohammed Bello said when he briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the Council meeting in Abuja that N2.3billion of the amount was meant for rehabilitation of the road leading to the Federal Integrated Staff Housing Estate in Apo, Abuja, while N3.6billion was approved for the construction of an access road and car park for the Abuja light rail station at ring road II.

The minister said: “During today’s Federal Executive Council meeting, I presented three memos, two of which were on infrastructure and the other was for the purchase of needed equipment to make the city safe.

“The first was for a contract to rehabilitate the road leading to the Federal Integrated Staff Housing Estate in Apo, Abuja, and that contract was approved at the sum of N2.3 billion with a completion period of 24 months.

“As you know, the Federal Integrated Staff Housing Estates are being constructed in some locations in Abuja under the office of the Head of civil Service of the Federation and these estates are intended to provide needed accommodation to federal civil servants.

“The second infrastructure project relates to the contract for the construction of an access road and car park for the Abuja light rail station at ring road II otherwise known as Kukwaba station, which you see on the airport expressway immediately after the city gate near the Kukwaba recreation park under the Ministry of Aviation. The contract was approved for N3.6 billion, with a completion period of 18 months.

“The intention is that by the opening of that road, that railway station can be made functional and then commuters can use the station either when they visit the national park there or they want to have access to the Kukwaba district.”

He further revealed that the Council approved N3.07billion for the purchase of two towing vehicles and a crane for use by the Directorate of Road Traffic Services in the FCT.

“The third is for the purchase of two heavy duty tow vehicles with mounted crane for the Directorate of Road Traffic Services otherwise called Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO), under the FCT and that particular contract was approved at a total sum of N3,072,466,000 with a duration period for the supply put at six weeks,” he said.

On his part, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the two memos for the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) he presented at the meeting, were approved by the Council.

According to Ehanire, the memos are procurement memos meant to upgrade and scale up the capacity of NAFDAC to be able to detect fake and substandard drugs and other materials.

He said: “The first memo was for procurement of about 40 scam devices, which are mobile scan devices to be able to recognise fake and substandard drugs brought in either across the border or found within the country.

“These are like rapid diagnostic kits tests, which also relieve the laboratories because normally you have to take samples to the laboratories, it takes a long time, several days and lead to some delays. So having a through scan allows us to have faster access.

“The second memo is about laboratory strengthening, improving and upgrading all of our six laboratories for NAFDAC for for testing materials that are brought into the country.

“Both of these contribute strongly to what we call the bench benchmarks for NAFDAC to be able to allow the manufacture of vaccines in Nigeria.

“It needs what we call the maturity level 3 of the World Health Organisation, to be able to start manufacturing, we have ambitions to start manufacturing vaccines and the federal government owns 49% of shares in the company called Bio-Vaccines that hopes to use technology imported from outside to make vaccines and getting this benchmark maturity level 3 is a condition for it.

“So both of these memos, the upscaling of laboratory capacity and the ability to speed up and make diagnostics more accurate in respective of fake and substandard drugs, will help us to push to apply for maturity level 3 for the health sector.’’

On Nigeria’s access to COVID-19 vaccines, the ministers said the vaccines would be supplied to the country through three sources, namely; the COVAX facility set up by the World Health Organisation and Global Alliance for vaccines and immunization (GAVI); African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) and through bilaterals

He said the vaccines would be provided to Nigerians free-of-charge, saying the COVAX facility would cover about 20 per cent of the nation population with vaccines.

“Now, the COVAX will start delivering to African countries before the end of February, that’s what they told us. But they didn’t tell us which country is first or which is second, which is third.

“So COVAX begins to deliver before the end of February. We hope that before the end of this month it would be our turn or latest by beginning of next month.

“As for us here, we are ready to use vaccination once it arrives, we met all the conditions.

“They have asked us to sign an indemnification form, we have done that.  Indemnification means that you do not hold us responsible for anything that happens from using this vaccine. That’s a standard process.

“We have signed that indemnification and so we are waiting for the vaccines to arrive anytime.

“Now, the largest number of vaccines we are getting is AstraZeneca in Africa, and this AstraZeneca is made under the licence. It’s a UK vaccine but is manufactured under licence by the Serum Institute of India.

“So Serum Institute of India is donating all these vaccines,’’ he said.

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Agriculture, Economy, Manufacturing

The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) is set to collaborate with the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) to promote export processing in the country.

Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, NEPZA’s Managing Director, on Wednesday said this when a delegation from NACCIMA, led by its National President, Hajiya Saratu Aliyu, visited him in Abuja.

The visit by delegation from NACCIMA, an umbrella body of the organised private sector in Nigeria was to seek NEPZA’s support in export processing and facilitation for its members.

Adesugba, while acknowledging NACCIMA’s pursuit of economic development said to improve functionality of existing Free Trade Zones, private sector collaboration was key to help boost investments and provide infrastructure support.

“This is our focus going forward. A collaborative engagement between NEPZA and NACCIMA is, therefore, very timely in view of NACCIMA’s role as the “Voice of Nigerian business” committed to leading Organised Private Sector (OPS) growth.

“By providing an enabling business environment to promote their business interests, whatever that may be. With over 60 years’ experience under its belt, NACCIMA is more than qualified to support NEPZA in this quest,’’ he said.

He, however, hoped that the organisations would work together towards achieving the industrialisation agenda and the economic development of the country.

Following Nigeria’s ratification of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) late 2020, he said NEPZA sought to leverage on its opportunities to service the African market by increasing exports.

Accordingly, he said the goal of the AfCFTA resonated strongly with the aims and objectives of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in promoting trade and services.

He said that was why NEPZA was currently repositioning its SEZs strategy to support the Agreement.

“The Authority is implementing this by focusing its investment facilitation and capacity expansion on goods and services that the country has high comparative advantages.

“Additionally, there are several additional ongoing reforms aimed at improving efficiency of our zones and boosting exports.

“These include; Review and update of the NEZPA Act to accommodate new initiatives and goals. Realigning the required institutional arrangements and building the capabilities and capacities to deliver.

“It also focuses on overcoming infrastructural and logistics challenges such as access roads and power within zones.

“It seeks to reduce high operating costs within zones to support increased participation of Small and Medium Enterprises in the SEZ’s,’’ he said.

NACCIMA’s president earlier congratulated Adesugba on his well-deserved appointment as NEPZA chief executive officer and hoped that the collaboration would facilitate export in the sector as sought.

Aliyu said that the purpose of the visit by the association was to seek NEPZA’s support in export processing and facilitation for its members across the country.

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Economy, Finance

The Federal Government and the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) are set to leverage on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to boost the country’s trade competitiveness.

Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, the Managing Director of NEPZA, made the remark while guiding the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, on an inspection tour of the Kano Free Trade Zone (KFTZ) in Kano.

In a statement by Martins Odeh, Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA, on Sunday, Adesugba reiterated that the AfCFTA presented the country with an exceptional lifeline to reboot the economy.

He explained that there was no better time than now to take advantage of the lofty opportunities provided by the agreement for countries in Africa to seamlessly trade among themselves.

According to him, all enterprises operating in the country’s 44 zones were being galvanised to use the trade agreement which commenced Jan. 1 to stay competitive and relevant.

“The visit of the minister to the Kano zone is a pointer to Federal Government’s desire to use the zone as a gateway to swiftly revamp the economy.

“The recent approval of N35.4 billion by Federal Government for improvement of electricity infrastructure in both Kano and Calabar FTZs remains a stride that shows President Muhammadu Buhari’s confidence in the scheme’s ability to fast track the country’s industrialisation.

“The authority remains grateful to both the president and the minister for this great feat. As can be seen, the Kano FTZ remains viable in spite of the power challenge,’’ he said.

However, Adesugba re-echoed the challenge of accessing foreign exchange faced by operators in the zones as a result of absence of offshore banking.

He added that it was high time the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) accelerated the approval.

“We are in touch with the CBN committee saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the off-shore banking is in place.

“But we are, however, soliciting the intervention of the minister for approval to be given without further delay,’’ Adesugba said.

The minister had described the Kano FTZ as one of the flagships of the country’s free zone scheme which NEPZA had done a lot to keep its operations going.

He added that the authority must be supported to carry out its mandate effectively.

Adebayo also explained that the Federal Government was committed to repositioning the scheme to become attractive, profitable and competitive in order to maximally draw from the benefits accruable from AFCTA.

On the planned concession of the Kano and Calablar zones, the minister urged investors and operators in the two public zones not to fret.

According to him, their interests would be protected during the negotiation of the two deals.

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